Top 10 questions asked of cyclists
As a competitive cyclist, I get a lot of questions from curious non-cyclists who wonder what it takes -- and why anyone would want -- to do the things I do. Long hours in the saddle, prize money in the hundreds (as in, not thousands or millions), little recognition, unflattering clothing, risks of crashing, ethics of cheating ... curiosity about the sport's intricacies is endless.
When you love your sport, you simply overlook the difficulties. But it is human nature for others to wonder about those difficulties, and about what it takes to be an elite athlete. Below are the top 10 questions I've been asked most over the years of my cycling life, and the answers, which, of course, are completely valid, accurate and morally sound. Ish.
1: How many miles did you ride today?
Answer: One hundred miles. This is often a blatant lie. Instead, I average the daily miles I've ridden since someone last asked my how many miles I've ridden, and that is usually about 100. Sometimes there is just not enough time to explain to a non-cyclist about interval workouts, speed training, long rides vs. short rides and how cyclists usually don't go by miles but by time, intensity, recovery and other factors specific to the day and an upcoming event. If I tell people I did an 8.9-kilometer mile prologue interval over 300 watts, they look at me like I'm speaking Sanskrit. But if I tell people I rode 100 miles, they say, "Oooh" and seem to appreciate/comprehend large round numbers.
2: Are you going to be in, or have you ever been in, the Olympics?
A: Alas, that's a question only fate, time and Google can answer.
3: Do you have a very strict diet?
A: Yes. I am very strict with food. It is not uncommon to find me standing in front of an open fridge and disciplining the groceries in a Scottish Fat Bastard accent to "Get in my belly!"
4: Do you think Lance cheated?
A: Evelyn Stevens. Marianne Vos. Emma Pooley. Jeannie Longo. Kristin Armstrong.
Those are just five of the hundreds of female pro cyclists who deserve more attention and discussion than the question of whether Lance cheated. Pick one. I'll tell you all about her.
5: Aren't you afraid of being hit by a car?
A: I'm far more afraid of spending my life just sitting on my ass.
6: Have you ever crashed?
A: (A nod to indicate "yes"). Cyclists don't like this question. Superstition, karma and odds require us to change the subject quickly. We'd rather you'd ask us if we've ever won a race.
7: Have you ever won a race?
A: Yes, I totally dominated the Cat 4s.
What's a Cat 4?
It's, uh, the first step in becoming an Olympian.
Oh, good for you!
Thank you so much!
8: This is embarrassing, but I just have to know: What happens if you have to pee in the middle of a long race?
A: If it is a one-day race, you either hold it or you go in your shorts. If it is a multiday stage race where the distances often require four-plus hours of riding and constant hydration is a must, sometimes there is a "pee break." Usually the race leader will ride easy for a few minutes while girls pull over and pee on the side of the road. Obviously, this "break" is not during a critical time in the race, and any rider who chooses to attack is reprimanded and blackballed -- anyone who survived high school knows it's not a good idea to piss off multiple groups of females. Those are the options: pull over and go, or don't pull over and go while you're riding. In the case of the latter, it is polite to go to the back of the peloton first. Next question!
9: How old are you?
So how much longer do you plan to ride? I assume you plan to have children soon?
Would you have asked me either of those questions if I were a dude?
10: Why do you do this sport? What is it about cycling you like so much?
A: For the long answer, search "As Good as Gold." There are many social, physical and psychological answers in my book for why I do what I do as a 30-plus-year-old athlete. But for the shorter version, I'm going to let my 7-year-old self answer why I like racing bicycles, which still holds true today: I like to get on my bike and see how fast I can make it go. The wind feels good on my face.